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>> San Clemente Pier — Update [topic: previous/next]
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 8:17 am
Ken Jones

Posts: 9780
Location: California

San Clemente Municipal Pier (Part 1)

If I've ever felt like I was in a movie, it was at this pier. Picture if you will an early April morning in San Clemente, the kind of morning that helps travel writers wax poetic and draw commissions from travel agencies. I had arrived at the parking lot about 5:15 A.M., headed down the incline to the pier, and stopped just past the breaker area where an overhead light on the pier afforded illumination for the darkness before the dawn. It was cool but not cold, there was little if any breeze, and the prospects were high for a beautiful day. By 5:30, I had a mussel-covered hook in the water and less than thirty seconds later I had my first fish, a small yellowfin croaker. Yes, prospects looked very good for the day.

However, the second cast failed to yield a quick bite and I began to relax. It was then that I noticed a deafening silence (oxymoron time) on the pier—and the sea gulls. I was surrounded by sea gulls, an assemblage of what seemed to be several hundred or so motionless gulls seemingly devoid of sound. And, they all seemed to be intently watching me and the bait sitting next to me near the railing. I felt as though I was in Alfred Hitchcock's movie The Birds and was waiting for the inevitable attack. Of course, it never came! The birds dispersed with the coming of light and the arrival of more people to the pier. But it was enough to give a person a case of the heebie-jeebies—the creeps. It was a strange, strange feeling.

This pier itself has a friendly, clean, somewhat old-time touristy feel with white painted railings and light blue trim (similar to Crystal Pier in San Diego). I first fished this pier in the late 1960s and frankly didn't do very well. However, since the ‘80s I have fished the pier almost yearly and have had consistently good results. I have also witnessed above-average fishing for several species, including spotfin croaker, yellowfin croaker, corbina and sharks. Today, I would rate the San Clemente Municipal Pier good for inshore species and sharks and at least average for pelagics.

Luckily, this is another pier saved from the destruction of the 1983 storms. Much of the end was lost in those storms but the pier has been rebuilt and even improved. At the front of the pier there is the first of three wide areas. On one side sits the main dining room of the Fisherman's Restaurant (where I had some excellent broiled yellowtail one evening). On the opposite side of the pier sits the restaurant’s oyster bar and additional outdoor seating. Mid-pier there is another wider T-section on the pier (which of course the anglers like to fish).

Near the end of the pier are restrooms and then Schleppy’s, a combination snack bar, tackle shop, and meeting place for locals to play checkers when they aren’t dissecting world and local events. Out front sit a couple of picnic tables and benches—and it seems like they’re almost always full, Lastly there is the wide end, the favorite spot for the young Turks, the shark anglers. At times you may feel that you are in a fish bowl as the tourists and restaurant patrons walk out on the pier to check out the action, but the pier is in excellent and clean condition.

The pier itself is located down near the end of Del Mar Street and it's a little difficult to find if you don't know where to look (so do follow the signs). Up the street and hill from the pier is a large parking lot. There are small grassy areas, a fine beach, and a small area populated with shops and restaurants. The area has somewhat of a Mediterranean feeling to it, and on a warm summer night has a classy ambiance matched by few piers. One final interesting note: railroad tracks run adjacent to the front of the pier, and several times a day the Los Angeles-San Diego train rumbles by and sometimes stops to let off passengers. All in all, this is an interesting area.

The pier is also a popular meeting place populated most mornings by local sexagenarian (or older) joggers, many of whom probably bought their million dollar homes back when the homes were $50,000, and that figure was considered high. Most of the locals are friendly—although not always.

One morning I watched a “club” of older gents meet for some fishing but apparently it was a first because they certainly did not know how to pier fish. One had brought a frozen bag of squid. Another had brought a bag of frozen shrimp. A third had visited Trader Joe’s and was set for some “Bouillabaisse de Clemente” having brought a collection of green-lipped mussels from New Zealand, calamari, shrimp and scallops. The group really didn’t know what in the heck they were doing but also didn’t want to listen to advice. The guy who had visited Trader Joe’s proceeded to put a whole scallop on a hook and I’m thinking what a waste of a good scallop. Soon after he pulls in a 3-4 pound spotfin croaker. The others cluster around and ask what it is and he says he thinks it’s a tom cod. I inform him he has caught a nice-sized spotfin croaker but he’s unimpressed and less than friendly. Standoffish and stuckupish I don’t need but it was an anomaly at this usually friendly pier.

Environment. This is a stretch of coast known for excellent surf fishing and for offshore kelp beds (although diminished in the past twenty years). To the north is fish-rich Dana Point and to the south is the warm-water area around the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant. The pier itself is located over a sand beach and the pier's pilings (it was built in 1928) are heavily covered with mussels much of the year (although this has changed somewhat due to recent practices by the city). In addition, a Wildlife Conservation Board reef was constructed out near the end of the pier in the ‘60s. Inshore wave action is typically mild and though water depth is only moderate it is more than sufficient for most pelagic species.

Inshore, anglers should expect to see corbina, spotfin croaker, yellowfin croaker, a few sargo, barred surfperch, guitarfish, various rays, and small sharks. The mid-pier area will yield all of these (but in a lesser number) and, in addition, offer white croaker, queenfish, halibut, sand bass, silver and walleye surfperch, sculpin (California scorpionfish), salema and jacksmelt. The far end of the 1,296-foot-long pier will see all of these but also yields mackerel, jack mackerel, bonito (some years), barracuda (in the fall), and occasionally even a few small yellowtail.

Regulars also report that some years see good wintertime catches of pileperch—down by the pilings—using fresh mussels or small sidewinder crabs. The piling areas, as well as the area by the reef (reachable with a good cast), also yield some sheephead, usually in the winter and typically the humpies bite best on live ghost shrimp. If live ghosties are unavailable, bring along some market shrimp or squid. Only problem is that the city has begun removing mussels from the pilings to lessen the weight and provide wintertime protection against storms. Fewer mussels on the pilings also mean less fish feeding on the mussels and the assorted Lilliputian critters that call the mussels their home. But then again, mussel-free pilings are still better than no pilings.

A new artificial reef is going to be built in San Clemente waters to mitigate some of the damage that has been done to local kelp beds by the San Onofre plant. When finished and (hopefully) when the kelp returns, there may also be a correlative affect to sightings of giant (black) sea bass at the pier, an endangered and illegal fish that already has seen a recent spike in catch. PFIC reported a 60-pound youngster being caught in September of '97, followed by a 70-pound fish in July of '99. Sporadic reports then came in until 2005 when several were reported. Finally, in 2007 there seemed to be an explosion of the big fish with roughly ten being reported during the year. It certainly seems like Stereolepis gigas, illegal to take since 1981, is making a comeback. However, some studies still show the comeback to be taking longer than expected due in large part to toxins (especially DDE and PCB) that have been found in examined fish. The big fish spend much of their time near the bottom and many of the bottom lurkin’ species they eat contain toxins themselves. These toxins can affect everything from development of the larvae to normal reproductive behavior including (possibly) changing males into females (just say no Gabby/Gabrielle). It’s a tangled web we’ve spun in our local waters.

The end section is also the preferred area for the “shark specialists” who at times will have their heavy outfits neatly lined up against and nearly covering the outer railings (but I’m not sure all remember the two pole per person rule). One afternoon, I witnessed the capture of two nearly 5-foot-long shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), several smaller smoothhound sharks, a couple of small rays, and a medium-sized bat ray. Another, truly huge, bat ray fought an angler for over an hour, up and down the south side of the pier, before breaking free as the angler's friends desperately tried to gaff it with their treble hook gaff. All of this in the space of two hours time.

San Clemente is a good sharay pier and most years will see a variety of Selachians (sharks) and Batoids (rays) being taken from the pier’s waters. The largest are usually the big old mama bat rays but large leopard sharks and shovelnose guitarfish provide many of the thrills. December of ’07 did see a 55-pound soupfin shark while April of 2008 seemed to be “Shark Month.” A duo of four-foot-long 7-gill sharks, an impressive angel shark, a horn shark, and a small mako shark joined the already strong showing of resident sharks. In addition, that month saw the capture of one of the pier’s largest shovelnose guitarfish ever, a hefty fish that measured 66” in length.

Fishing Tips
. Although anglers might want to sample several spots on the pier, this is one pier where I recommend checking out the inshore area first. Use a high/low leader with number 6 or 4 hooks; bait up with bloodworms, lugworms, fresh mussels, ghost shrimp or sand crabs; and fish just outside the breaker area. Any time of the day may yield a nice yellowfin croaker or barred surfperch but early evening or night seems to yield the largest yellowfin and spotfin croaker, as well as corbina and an occasional black (China) croaker. Target the barred surfperch in the winter and spring, the croakers in the summer and fall.

The inshore and mid-pier area (starting just past the breakers and extending 3/4 of the way out on the pier) will offer up most of the pier's halibut. Prime months will be from April or May through the summer months into the fall. Fish on the bottom using live bait (and more and more anglers are using nets to capture live bait and air pumps to keep them alive). Smelt and grunion are the longest lasting baits, but anchovies, small queenfish and baby mackerel are the apple of the halibut's eye. Many anglers are also beginning to target the flatties with artificial lures. Some favorites from the Pier Fishing in California Message Board include small plastics (Worm King AAA, 3-inch Fish Traps or 3-inch Big Hammers), and Chrome/Prism Krocodiles in 1/4 to 1/2 ounce sizes. A slow retrieve along the bottom, and a little luck, is all that is necessary.

The mid-pier to end area offers a number of the smaller southland species: white croaker, queenfish, jacksmelt, butterfish, salema and walleye surfperch. Numbers of each specific species will change with the seasons but there is almost always some type of fish available. All of these can be caught by using size 8-10 Sabiki-type leaders, high/low leaders that contain size 6-8 hooks, or simply use 2-3 small hooks tied directly onto your line. Fish from the bottom to mid-depth areas of the water and try small pieces of anchovy, mackerel or bloodworms as bait (although many like to use strips of squid). When these schooling species are around it can be almost hard to keep them off your hook.

Mixed in with these fish, if your bait is on the bottom, will be a few round stingrays, thornback rays, gray smoothhound sharks and shovelnose guitarfish. Since they tend to be larger, size 4-1/0 hooks and slightly heavier line may be appropriate. Other sharks, although less common, are horn sharks (sometimes called spotted horn sharks) and Pacific angel sharks; a few of the former will be landed most years while one of the latter will be landed every few years.

The end area is best for the pelagic species! Mackerel will hit strips of squid or pieces of mackerel, and bonito will grab feathers trailing behind a cast-a-bubble or splasher. If barracuda show up, try for the toothy critters with Krocodile, Kastmaster or similar-type spoons. Yellowtail and white seabass prefer a lively sardine, anchovy, herring (queenfish), smelt or small mac.

Nighttime (and daytime) will often also see some sharks and rays caught. Probably the favorite sharks for the shark “specialists” are thresher sharks and the big old bat rays, but more commonly caught will be shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), gray sharks (smoothhounds), and leopard sharks. A lively mackerel slid down the line on a slider is the most common method for the largest sharks (sometimes with a balloon to keep the bait near the top), while whole squid or cut mackerel is employed on the bottom for mid-sized sharks and rays. Since sharks and (many) bat rays have been landed here which exceeded 100 pounds in weight (including a 135-pound bat ray caught by a lady named June in November of '99), be sure to bring along sufficient equipment to get the large fish up onto the pier.

An added attraction at the pier is spiny lobster; it seems to be one of the best piers for the southern California delicacy. If you're seeking the big crawdads remember that Panulirus interruptus is generally a nocturnal beast. Night hours are the prime-time “catching times” since that's when they move out of their hiding spots in search of food. Of additional interest is the fact that where you find lobsters you will usually also find moray eels. The same is true here as seen in the 4-foot-long moray eel taken out by the end of the pier in June of '00 and several somewhat smaller morays reported since that date. By the way, report lobster poachers! It’s an ongoing problem and the increasing number of Knuckleheadus californiensis has decreased the number of lobsters taken from the pier.

Last edited by Ken Jones on Sat Mar 21, 2009 11:32 pm; edited 7 times in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:19 am
Ken Jones

Posts: 9780
Location: California

(Part 2)

E-Mail Messages: Thirteen posts, all by dompha ben.

Date: May 17, 2004
To: Pier Fishing In California Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: One more bachelor fishing report this week?

For over 25 years, I have fished alongside my dad, mom, and five younger brothers. I've angled and tangled with friends and strangers. I've introduced dozens of people to the sport--two of whom turned those day trips into fishing careers. I've learned from veterans, deckhands, skippers, pier rats, and coke-canners at Pier J.
I've even managed to talk several girlfriends into fishing along the way. A few even enjoyed themselves.
But as of Saturday, I will have a lifelong opportunity to do something I've never done before...
Fish with my wife.
A pretty accomplished pier, shore, and kayak angler (and hooper!), Brandy and I hope to have many adventures together for years to come--many of them fishing!
With the wedding on Saturday, I hope to get one more trip in as a bachelor, probably at San Clemente pier this week. After all, she knew what she was getting into when I picked her up with a kayak on my truck for our second date Smile
Good wishes, thoughts, advice, and prayers are appreciated, but not necessary... your presence on this board is reward enough.
Best, DOMPFA Ben, Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed, nor wind to blow. -The Grateful Dead

Date: June 8, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: Lavish Leopard Love, 6-7-04

TEAM DOMPFA, comprised today of me, Dad aka Wildbillfisher, Dan, Thomas, Bryan aka Male Trout, and Rob aka Bearkiller, challenged the Monday afternoon commute, and made the long drive to San Clemente Pier from Pasadena. After a rough journey past several accidents—including a spilled load of bulk glass in the middle of the southbound 5--it was refreshing to turn the corner on Del Mar and see the beautiful pier jutting out into the Pacific.
Speaking of “Pacific,” the low tide surf was anything but. There was a nice break coming through, and several dozen surfers were taking advantage of the nice lefts.
We started out near the bathrooms, fishing live smelt in the white-seabass-green colored water. I had a few rips with the trolley rig, but nothing stuck. Dan managed to pull too soon, and came back with a raked bait (kiss of the halibut.) Dan managed one smallish mackerel on a squid strip, which we soaked for a while, then kept for cut bait when it rolled.
Around 7:30 P.M. the smelt disappeared, so we decided to make a move closer to the beach. Fishing behind the surf line, in a location only to be disclosed as “Captain Ross’ Leopard Hole,” we set up an arsenal of rods. Fishing two rods each, the heady scent of cut anchovy, squid, and cut mackerel created a nice chum slick in the roiling surf.
Around 9:20, the clicker on my Sealine-X starts singing, and I set the hook on a small bat ray, maybe 5 lbs. A quick release before the tourists could regroup must have given us some karma...
In what will forever more be described as “The 9:40 Miracle,” we managed a triple hook-up on the same wave of fish. Dan hooked a leopard, Tom hooked a slightly larger bat ray, and I hooked the biggest thornback I've ever seen. All fish were brought to the net quickly and CPR-ed. The bite slowed considerably after that, but not before we managed to land another bat ray, several more thornbacks, a small round stingray, and a gray smooth hound that ate a squid head.
With a heightened sense of Dominating Positive Fishing Attitude, and a renewed spirit, we called it a night and headed for the barn around 11:30. On our way out, there was a charming man and woman fishing couple that was fishing an undisclosed glob-bait for several nice barred perch right in the wave wash. Several anglers walking towards the parking lot reported throughout the evening that the end of the pier was slow. The surf line was the place to be tonight.
But perhaps, in a larger sense, the place to be tonight was fishing with friends and family on an errant, pre-summer Monday. DOMPFA!

Date: July 15, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier, fishing & teaching, 7/14

Last night, after exhausting all possible options for finding a fishing buddy among friends and family, I left the house for a rare solo trip to San Clemente pier. Besides, I needed a couple of specimens for my classroom, and San Clemente is one of the sharkiest places I know. San Clemente pier does not really have the personal safety issues presented by some other piers, but it is nice to have someone watch your gear while you run to the bathroom, or to hold the light and landing net.
Such luxuries were not mine last night, but the pier was bustling with activity. I had forgotten what a summer night looks like at San Clemente Pier, as hundreds of people swarmed all over like so many ants. It seemed crowded for a Wednesday. Couples walked past my pier cart, embracing beneath the romantic orange glow of sodium halide lamps. There were dozens of young children running about, and I caught myself thinking, “Where are their parents?” ...perhaps a sign that I am finally growing up.
But amidst the melee, several families were out fishing in the balmy weather, and it made me smile wistfully, remembering such trips my own family made when we were young. One family next to me was doing very well on 20 inch-class shovelnose, as I set up about thirty feet closer to the beach than them.
I put out two rods: An 8 ft. G. Loomis rod with a Sealine-X 20SHV, fishing 15 lb. Yozuri hybrid, and a 7 ft. All Star spinning rod with an Okuma reel, fishing 20 lb. Izorline. Both were tied with a dropper loop, 3 oz. torpedo sinker on the loop and a 3-foot leader with a size 1/0 Gamakatsu live bait hook. I baited one with squid, one with frozen sardine, took a long draught from my AMPM drink, and settled into my seat for more people watching.
My wait was not long, as two minutes after splashdown, my 15 lb. rig was dancing. I swung and set, and hauled in a 2-foot smoothhound. Before I could get her into the bucket, a crowd of children and their parents had gathered around. Knowing that the shark was destined for the classroom anyway, I took the opportunity to show the people the finer points of Mustelus californicus. The kids were very pleased with themselves, feeling the rough denticles, marveling at the spiracles behind the eyes, and comparing the eyes to a cat's. Parents thanked me, and for a moment, without pomp or circumstance, I was pleased to represent pier fishing and sharks in a positive light.
I managed to land two shovelnose, and three thornbacks before I left at 10:30. It was a short trip to the pier, but one that I really enjoyed. Not only did I have some nice specimens for my students, I also had the pleasure of speaking with dozens of folks last night. I think an interest in pier fishing was sparked in at least a few of them, and I wouldn't be surprised to see them out there again, rods in hand, and grins from ear to ear. Ben

Date: August 9, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: very cool...my earliest “quote” on PFIC

I found my earliest “report” on PFIC... it's listed under San Clemente Pier and under Balboa Pier...two piers I frequented in the 90's. So many years lurking... I'm happy I decided to become more involved, and equally happy that PFIC has proven to be a continued and growing success for Ken. Kudos!
The link has a report from Ben Acker under San Clemente Pier Smile Too cool!
San Clemente Pier... Another note came from Ben Acker who said that his early morning visit was good for white croaker and a “big old bat ray.” He says his brother and a friend have also gotten quite a few lobsters there recently.
Balboa Pier—Ben Acker visited the pier mid-month and said it was a “virtual Mac-attack, though on four pound test and a trout rod, it was a good time...”

Date: September 25, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier, 9/25/2004

After a “week of Mondays,” I spent the better part of Friday evening on the couch, dozing comfortably, and waking only to catch a snippet of the Dodger game or MXC on Spike TV.
Around 3:00 A.M. I awoke refreshed and ready to start my day. Trouble was, not a creature was stirring, not even my wife. I called my brothers, knowing that with each additional ring, the chance of them going fishing with me was slim.
By 3:20, I decided to make it a solo trip, loaded the truck, and headed south. I arrived at San Clemente Pier around 4:45. The pier looked like the work of a great Impressionist, with a veil of fog softening the edges and corners of things. As the first suggestion of light glowed just above the horizon, I set up at the end of the pier.
Around 6:00, the mackerel attacked the pier with reckless abandon, corralling a school of smelt into formation near the pilings. I fly-lined chunks of anchovy and fished them in free spool, waiting for the telltale zip of the line flying off my reel before setting.
By 7:00, I'd had enough of mackerel, and decided to try for bonito. I had seen several crashing on baits, and they appeared to be the bigger variety. Meanwhile, the entire end of the pier looked like Balboa or Newport. The bite was not wide open, but it was steady on bonito from 1 to 4 lbs. Some of the bonito were bigger models, and all seemed to be taken on bubble and feather combos. I threw a golf ball rig, two different Krocs (green mac and prism), a diving Rapala, and an egg bobber/fly combo for nothing but mackerel.
At 8:20, I hooked a juvenile white seabass on cut anchovy, and saw five others hooked by other anglers. One particularly idiotic angler who caught one of the small croakers made a big to-do about how it's illegal to keep them, then proceeded to take over three minutes to unhook the fish, after a photo session. The final insult was the flipping slap down he offered the fish, which made no attempt to swim upon its return to the water. It floated off towards the beach, and I toyed with the thought of the bonehead angler doing the same thing.
Around 9:15, another angler borrowed my hoop net to land a 3-foot shovelnose caught on a dropper loop/squid setup. The bonito bite remained steady for those who knew what they were doing.
At 9:45, I packed it up and headed for the parking lot. San Clemente Pier starts checking the meters in the parking lot at 10:00, and with my fishing fix sated, it was time to head home.
I made a point of talking to every angler I passed on the way down the pier. There was not a lot going on mid-pier, but the small smelt were thick. In the surf line, I spoke with several anglers. One caught two corbina and a pan-sized spotfin croaker using mussel on a Carolina rig. Another angler was fishing mussel on a two-hook surf rig, and had a couple of smallish barred perch. He also told me he hooked a small leopard and a round stingray.
Good variety at San Clemente pier this morning. The bonito are there, but they didn't seem to be stacked up like they were a few weeks ago.
Other notes: I threw a squid jig in the morning twilight for nothing but arm exercise. One of the regulars, Tomas aka “Tom” aka “Gramps” told me that he has been out a lot lately, and hasn't seen any squid caught. He did give me the “you shoulda’ been here yesterday!” speech, but only after walking around the end of the pier, helping strangers get rigged up and picking up any trash he saw. I'd never met him before, but he seems like a very knowledgeable and admirable fellow.

Date: October 3, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier, 10/2/04, 5:00 P.M. - 12:00 A.M.

With only one tasty bug in the freezer, a favorable tide swing, and the Dodgers down by three runs in the seventh inning, my dad and I decided to head to San Clemente Pier for some hooping and fishing.
After nearly crashing my truck listening to Vin Scully, we arrived at the pier with grins on our faces, and a hopeful (hoopful?) feeling. The pier was in its usual state of grace during the lobster season opener. Hoop nets lined the pier railing on both sides from the surf zone to the end like Harleys at a Sturgis rally. Families and groups of all sizes were out in force. We found a small stretch of open railing, and started getting set. Considering the numbers, someone was going home with lobster!
My favorite part of the season opener is seeing the “hooping regulars” that you have not encountered for a year. Handshakes, smiles, and laughs are common. You might not see them again for the entire season, but they're always there on opening day.
On to the report: According to pier regular Tomas, the pier remained open (or at least populated) after midnight on Friday evening/Saturday morning. He walked the pier helping people get rigged up, and told me that only 10 bugs were caught, four of which were legal.
On Saturday afternoon, the bonito and some mack-truck mackerel made a showing at the end for the splasher brigade. Buckets were full, but most of the fish appeared to be mackerel. In the surf, a few yellowfin croaker to about a pound were coming in on mussel and anchovy tails.
I dropped my hoops around 5:30, anxious to get in the water and, if nothing else, defrost the bait. My dad kept one hoop on the pier, choosing instead to send down a live sardine we yanked-up on the Sabiki. In a matter of minutes, his rod doubled over when a bass engulfed his offering and made a spirited fight. It escaped at the top of the water, and from the look of the bite marks on the 'dine, it had never actually been hooked.
My first pull at 5:45 resulted in a lot of salad and the kelpfish pictured. My second hoop also had a kelpfish! I have never caught a kelpfish at San Clemente, so it was a first, and a second. One thing is certain—the kelpfish must have felt right at home, considering the amount of seaweed fouling nets.
Around 7:00, the tide turned and the weeds went by the wayside. The nets were coming up cleaner on 25 minute sets, but they were TOO clean—not a bug in sight.
I walked the pier several times during the evening, and found that only a few short bugs had been caught. Several small sculpin were also caught in the hoops. One angler had a bat ray give him a tussle in the hoop. It seemed like everyone was observing the regulations, and managing to have a good time.
Around 9:00, a regular named Randy pulled up a nice legal right across the pier from us. The lobster had a 4-inch carapace—well over legal. Here and there, a bucket would have a lobster in it. I counted a total of eight. Most appeared to be just legal.
Feeling lucky, I returned to my spot and pulled up...a big octopus. My dad followed suit with...a starfish. No bugs and no love.
All said, we ended the night with a goose egg. Still, it was a spectacle of which I enjoy partaking. It is interesting to see how crowded the pier is for opening night. As I walked the pier, one family had set up a tent for their small children to play and remain occupied. Many anglers had their significant others on the pier, much to the delight of some of the more salty regulars. Portable heaters, DVD players, and folding chairs gave the pier an air of celebration, a feeling that for the briefest of moments, all is right with the world.
In a matter of weeks, they will all be gone, trading the cold of night and the promise of rope burn for a warm house. There is nothing more beautiful to me than a deserted pier at night, especially after such a busy summer. The tourists were out in force today, and as always, I remained cordial. One of them had a lot of questions, and he wanted them answered immediately:
1. “Are these your own PERSONAL nets?” (No, the city provides them for general use.)
2. “So, you just buy these [nets] and bring them out here?” (No, the nets fell from space, and, with their transcendental powers, willed me to this spot...in accordance with the prophecy...)
It looks like I'm going to have to share my lone bug with Mrs. DOMPFA tonight, and make an extra baked potato... but hey, at least the Dodgers won! DOMPFA, Ben

Date: November 4, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: San Clemente, 11/3/04, 9P - 1A

I was joined by my brothers (Dan, Zach, and Jonny) and cousins (Bryan and Andy) for a little impromptu hooping session last night.
We arrived at the pier around 9:00 P.M. and there was a light breeze blowing. We dropped two hoops each, thoroughly covering our usual spots on the pier. Talked to local Ed, who said he got a couple of shorts earlier in the evening.
I got a short on my first pull, as did Bryan and Zach. Jonny got a nice legal (3.5” carapace) male, which he gave to me and my wife (is he the greatest baby brother in the world, or what?) Bryan pulled a heartbreaker (3.2499999" carapace... a little rattle on the saddle) that we released for one more molt.
All told, we pulled 7 bugs last night—4 very short, 2 “close but no cigar, Pete”, and one defi-legal.
In my ongoing attempts to try to understand the habits of these critters, last night proved once again that when they're crawling, they're CRAWLING! Like clockwork, we stopped pulling them. I think there must be something that triggers them all to come out and feed at once, or at least move around, and then, just as quickly, they go back to ground. The crawl just stopped around 11:00.
Incidentally, the calm wind out of the south reversed around 10:30, and became a howling north wind. A few raindrops on the glasses, but nothing soaking. A cold night at the pier, but a great time with family.

Date: December 4, 2004
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier hooping, 12/3/2004, 8p - 12A

Around 11:15, I saw them coming.
An attractive couple sauntered down the pier in our general direction. They were walking in the most peculiar fashion, a kind of sideways shuffle-step that seemed to rely heavily on the gait of the other. As they approached my cousin Bryan and I, the heady scent of scotch slapped me in the face.
“What kinda (racist epithet omitted) shtuff y'all catch down here? Puffers? Fiddler crabs? Dogfish?” asked the man, either a tourist or a Neanderthal, his lamb's wool Eddie Bauer trench coat hanging precariously close to my bloody lobster bait-bucket.
“No, uh, we're trying for lobsters,” I said dryly, angered that this fool would walk up to a perfect stranger on a dark pier, and feel it was acceptable to use that kind of language. I continued, “...and if you use that word in front of me again, we're going to have a serious problem.” I'm not a fighter; I'm not a tough guy. But the orange glow from the overhead sodium lamps betrayed the glass in his hands, apparently swiped from the bar at the foot of the pier, and this guy just boiled my blood. A racist and a thief. “Wonderful,” I thought. The guy half-apologized, acknowledging that I was a head taller than he, and probably outweighed him by 80 pounds. I acknowledged him with a blank stare, a combination “mad-dog” and “angry 6th grade teacher.”
Without flair or fanfare, I motioned to his lady-friend's feet, covered by a few hundred dollar's worth of shoes to contrast the nickel's worth of brains between the two of them. She was also secreting a glass in her mittened hands, and seemed to be having difficulty focusing on me. “There's one in that bucket right there by your moon-boots.”
She looked down, drunkenly oblivious to my slight, and almost fell headlong into the bucket. Sure enough, resting quietly in the bucket was a beautiful Panulirus interruptus. He had a carapace measurement of over four inches, and a large powerful tail curled under his body, protected for the moment by a tangle of orange and burgundy-striped legs.
“Whatcha-ketchum-with?” squeaked the man, his voice weaker now, annoyingly reminiscent of a hated grade-school teacher. A woman teacher, at that.
I didn't tell him that I had placed a frozen section of yellowtail carcass in the bottom of my hoop, securing it with a couple of zip ties. I didn't mention that the complete lack of current and minimal wave action, combined with pretty weak tidal flow was going to keep the scent of the bait from traveling very far from the hoop, so it was necessary to tie an extra length of rope onto the end of the existing rope to allow for a powerful Frisbee toss out next to the reef where the lobsters were likely hiding. I refrained from offering that all of my drops straight up and down were not resulting in any lobsters, but that when I had thrown the hoop out to a distance that was just up-current from the reef and not so far that I landed on top of it—or worse, beyond it, resulting in a big snag and a lost hoop—that it was then and only then that

I caught the spiny beast at their feet.
I failed to point-out that his girlfriend's fly was open on her $300 designer jeans.
Instead, I kept my answer simple, attempting to avoid further conversation.
“Bait,” I muttered.
My plan worked, and somehow, despite the copious quantities of grain spirits this dynamic duo had apparently consumed, they stumbled back down the pier without falling into the surf zone. Part of me wished they had.
All told, we encountered a small octopus, a nice lobster, a couple of regulars braving the cold with us, an excellent view of the winter constellations, and a gorgeous moonrise. Great diversity.
...And two hapless drunks that demonstrated bigotry is alive and well as we head towards the New Year. They were released without incident, but need a little deprogramming, and a healthy dose of diversity training. DOMPFA, Ben

Date: May 8, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: Friday night, San Clemente - bass and upgrades

I absolutely had to get out for a few hours, so I called cousin Bryan and my dad Bill to head down to the pier with me. We arrived late--around 10:00 P.M., but just seeing the nearly vacant pier and hearing the crashing 2 to 4 foot surf immediately calmed me—it's the only therapy that works for me.
I jerked a Sabiki around Schleppy's for one white croaker, one big smelt, and one walleye perch about 5 inches. I pinned the perch onto my heavier live bait rig, and tossed it out.
In the meantime, I took the Sabiki off, tied on an anchovy pattern 5 inch Big Hammer with a yellow 3/4 oz. head, and made a good cast.
I got whammo'd on the sink, and a nice just-legal sand bass came over the rail. Just then, my live perch gets picked up and pulled...missed the hook.
I rebaited with a whole frozen anchovy fished “pierhead style” (through the nose, wrapped a few times, and into the tail), and immediately caught another chunky sand bass, this time about 13.5 inches.
By quitting time, we had caught 6 sand bass (5 legal, one 8-incher), two sculpin (released), and a few other assorted fish. No sign of mackerel or sardines yet, but the sand bass bite on the backside of the tide was a nice surprise. I kept the one caught on the frozen anchovy, as it was gill hooked and bleeding like a stuck pig.
Incidentally, the pier upgrade project still seems to be underway—there are ladders lashed to the sides of the pier near the lifeguard station, and there is some construction equipment on the pier in the same general location. It's nothing like that giant crane they had out there last year, but it's still nice to see them working on it. There are new pier boards all the way out to about the first tee, making a nice smooth ride for even the hardest pier cartwheels.
Oh, and heading back to the parking lot, some knucklehead lit an entire brick of firecrackers on the railroad tracks. It reported with the expected cracks and bangs for the better part of 5 minutes. The OC Sheriffs got the call as we were standing with them in line at 7-Eleven a few minutes later.
Bryan laughed that the deputies said one of the funniest things he had heard in a while: “Well, let's hit it, boys...someone's going to jail tonight.”
Priceless...and wonderful that riff-raff and reindeer games are not tolerated at this pier. It's one of the things that keep it nice, even if the fishing isn't always as good as other piers.

Date: July 14, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier, 7/13 2200 to 0000

My throat burning and brow beaded with perspiration, I coughed for probably the hundredth time. Somehow, I had managed to get a head cold in the middle of July. The words my mother told me when I was ten echoed in my brain—If you're sick enough to stay in bed, then stay in bed. If you can sit at home sick, you might as well sit at school sick.
Applying that advice to modern times and interests, coupled with the need for a specimen for my oceanography class, last night I found myself on San Clemente Pier with my brother Dan. We arrived at 10:30, and found tropical, surreal conditions—a muggy, humid atmosphere, a 75 degree breeze coming off the ocean, explosions of cobalt in the water as the algae churned in the waves, and a blood-red first quarter moon heading towards the horizon. The entire scene was draped in moisture, as if the pier had just endured a cloudburst.
Dan and I set up near the double-bench with sliding rigs, baiting our hooks with squid and leftover grunion halves from our last trip. I immediately hooked a sand bass on grunion that put up a spirited fight on a 25 lb. test shark rig. I released the just-legal fish for her efforts, and to see the light show when she splashed-down. Besides, we were after larger quarry...
...that never showed. Towards the end of the night, we each hooked large, female thornbacks. I kept one for my class, and the other, which appeared to be pregnant, went back into the drink. We packed up around midnight, partly due to the strange conditions, and partly due to the rattle in my chest. Yikes.
My classes enjoyed examining Platyrhinoidis triseriata. One of my students admitted that his dad, a fisherman, said the spines were poisonous. Another searched in vain for the stinger. All of them were intrigued by the spiracles, the electroreceptors on the rays “face,” and of course, the three rows of spines (the triseriata part of its name) running the length of the body.
When you really stop and look at a thornback guitarfish, they are a beautiful creature, a wonder of evolution that hasn't really changed all that much for more than 300 million years. It sort of makes you wonder where we'll be in that amount of time. I'm going to freeze up the thornback for hoopnet bait, so she won't be wasted. For what it's worth, 37 middle school students came to a better understanding of sharks and rays today, and have a better appreciation of the natural world because of her. That's an honorable death for anything.

Date: August 15, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier, noon to five

What a lovely day at San Clemente pier. The pier was alive with tourists, visitors, walkers, and anglers. While the fishing was so-so, brother Dan and I had a delightful afternoon on the pier.
Cut mackerel begot live mackerel today, and that, all too easily. Bonito were a bit skittish, but a few came over the rail on shiny things and splashers. Dan and I used Sabikis to catch live smelt, and managed a couple of sand bass, a nice sculpin, and two mystery-runs that were neither of the aforementioned species.
Highlights of the day, however, involved meeting some new pier rats. I met one gentleman at the end, Victor, whose nephew is doing a hitch at Pendleton. I gave him an extra golf ball and rubber band fly, and he gave me an afternoon of delightful conversation. Victor hails from North Carolina, and he shared many tips and strategies that he has used on the other coast. Notably, he explained how to make a great lure out of a leadhead, a Bic pen casing, and a treble hook. Really a great guy... and he caught a bonito on my golf ball, so that was rewarding.
Dan and I also “adopted” a family on the pier for the afternoon. A lovely couple and their 4-year-old son have been visiting from England, and Dan took them under his angler wing. Dan loaned his rod to the fellow, and showed him the finer points of catching bait. The man's son also got in on the action, and giggled with delight as the wiggly smelt made their way into our bait bucket.
The proudest moment was when the English fellow dropped down a hi-lo that Dan tied, baited with mussel, and pulled up a lovely spotfin croaker. Some passing fishermen practically begged him for it, and he gladly passed it to them for dinner.
As the days grow shorter, I know that San Clemente will return to its winter plumage (as will the scantily clad she-denizens of said pier.) In the meantime, I will continue to enjoy San Clemente's unique interpretation of summer.
But with change comes opportunity--revisiting species from seasons-passed, friends who only appear around certain crustacean seasons, only to disappear when the season closes, and perhaps my favorite, seeing the winter sky with her constellations from the cold, dark deck of my deserted home-pier.
Bring on Fall.

Date: November 8, 2006
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: OK, I'll go out on a limb, here... (In reply to: Snaggers seen in San Clemente posted by epriemel on Nov-8-06

San Clemente is a really nice pier, off the beaten path, not generally crowded. In the 20 some-odd years I've been fishing there, I've RARELY seen snaggers. If I had to guess why not, I'd say it is due to a couple of things. If they offend you, might I suggest you're being overly sensitive, or I'm being overly general?
1. San Clemente is not as close (convenient) as other piers are to the homes of those who are generally snagging for socio-economic reasons. Less travel = less gasoline = less expenditure.
2. San Clemente's surf is not conducive to snagging. The surf is usually medium to large, and kicks up a lot of silt. Sight snagging is not going to be easy at SCP.
3. The locals don't put up with any crap at that pier. They are a tight-knit group that has gone so far as to clean and sweep their pier nightly. They repaint over graffiti in the bathrooms. They don't tolerate people misusing the pier. They have no problem calling the cops on taggers, snaggers, or brown baggers.
4. The Orange County Sheriff loves to make surprise visits on occasion, and cites people for overhand casting, or being on the pier past curfew. They might suggest it's because of ORANGE ALERT. They might also say they're making a RANDOM CHECK. I happen to think that if you aren't local or look like you're making a positive (or at least neutral contribution) to the view, they're going to run you off. Probably not fair all the time, but when it works in your favor, it's a good thing.
5. The adjacent bluffs and overlooks are prime areas for DFG to sit with a spotting scope and a camera, and pick-off poachers and people doing illegal things. Just ask Don... he can see the pier from his window. DFG CAN and DOES visit the pier, often after watching and “collecting evidence” on people engaged in illegal activity for a while. Try beating a video of you in court.
All that said, once the snaggers realize it's not a good place to snag, they'll hopefully move on. Nothing much to fish for down there anyway.
Interesting thing: A few reports come in about San Clemente being great, with croaker, mackerel, and BSB being caught... and within a few days, we're hearing about snaggers at the pier. ...must be a coincidence.

Date: March 24, 2007
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompha ben
Subject: San Clemente Pier (late report) 3/22/07

After a longer-than-usual day at work, I was joined by two of my brothers, Dan and Jonny, and my cousin Andy-G for the carpool lane ride to SCP. We arrived around sundown to cool, breezy conditions. Most of the surfers had left for the day; from the looks of the larger swell rolling in with the tide, there must have been quite a few in the lineup.
We set up our rods outside the surf break, and threw offerings of squid, shrimp, and anchovy on hi-lo's and dropper loop setups. As is his custom, Dan immediately set out to out-fish all of us; within minutes, he had caught three yellowfin croaker on thin strips of squid...plenty of trailer hanging off the hook to seductively sway with the water movement.
Jonny felt the tap-tap-tap of something alive at the other end of his line, and brought up a bug...too little (undersized), too late (1 day after the season closed), and no hoop net... three strikes, to be sure, so back the bug went to grow up.
Around that time, Ed and Eric (epremiel) stopped to say hello as they called it a day. Always nice to see good people at the pier.
As for the fishing, there was a slow pick on croakers (yellowfin, queenfish, and the beloved white croaker.)
The highlight of the evening occurred when Dan's heavy rod/reel started singing as something took off with his “cookie” (an Ackerism meaning “several anchovies on a hook, wrapped with thread until it resembles something like an uncooked fish ball.”) He set the hook and valiantly fought a 38-inch shovelnose all the way to the rail.
The wind died with the bite, and we headed for the barn around 11. We happened to be leaving the pier at the same time as a nice couple who drove all the way down to SCP from Alhambra. I'd think them nuts to drive that far in the middle of the week... but Alhambra is right next to Pasadena, and “my hypocrisy goes only so far.”
All fish (and crustaceans) released healthy to fight another day.

Pier Fishing In California Fish Reports

August 1997—Kamal, at the Pier Tackle shop, reports good fishing on several species. Numerically, lots of mackerel lead the list followed by small perch and salema. However, a few larger species are around. Anglers landed three yellowtail in the last week on live bait while keeper halibut continue to be caught almost every day on anchovies. Inshore and mid-pier, anglers continue to hook yellowfin croaker and spotfin croaker using mussels for bait. Some sargo, opaleye and buttermouth perch (blackperch) round out the smaller species. Finally, although it has been slow on sharks, quite a few bat rays up to 60 pounds continue to grab squid from angler's lines.

October 1997—Kamal, at the Pier Tackle shop, reports that the pier had no problems from the storm although there were 7-foot waves and there is still a lot of grass in the water. Most recent action has been on mackerel with a few bonito joining into the fun when they see the anglers becoming bored. Inshore, the regulars continue to pull in lots of yellowfin croaker and spotfin croaker on fresh mussels and ghost shrimp. One angler did pull in a 60-pound black sea bass (which was returned to the water). Shark action has been slow. Finally, lobster season just opened and Kamal says most families are averaging 6-7 spiny lobsters each night.

November 1997—Vivian, at the Pier Tackle shop, says that a lot of fish are still being caught. Out toward the end, anglers are finding the usual schools of mackerel but are also finding a lot of sardines mixed in with the macs. Bass also are a winner and it sounds like one of the best years for bass. Shark fishermen continue to haul in good numbers of shovelnose guitarfish and big bat rays while the surf area is offering up some yellowfin croaker, spotfin croaker and sargo. An unusual catch this week was a needlefish, while families at night continue to bring in buckets of spiny lobster.

July 1998—Priscilla, at the Pier Tackle Shop, says that fishing is unbelievable right now. The day I called (June 27), one angler had landed 14 spotfin croaker that ranged in size from 4-6 pounds, all in the space of two hours. Priscilla said the croakers, both spotfin and yellowfin, are being taken from the inshore area out to the middle of the pier and you should try fresh mussels, ghost shrimp and bloodworms as bait. At the end of the pier, anglers are picking up some good-sized sand bass but the mackerel and halibut fishing has been spotty. Although some halibut have been landed, most are too small to keep. Bat rays are also being caught in good quantity and some are ranging to the near 100-pound mark.

October 1998—Priscilla, at the Pier Tackle Shop, says that fishermen continue to pull in yellowfin and spotfin croaker while fishing the inshore sections of the pier. At the end, the main action is on mackerel and lots of barracuda. Priscilla says most of the barracuda are being caught on strips of squid. Most regulars are waiting for the opening of the lobster season this weekend—which is to be expected since San Clemente is one of the top piers for the tasty crustaceans

August 1999—Priscilla, from the Pier Bait and Tackle Shop, reports that some really nice fish have been taken lately. Included has been a 70-pound black sea bass (that was released), a 5-pound horn shark, 3 1/2-pound corbina, several 4-5 pound calico bass, large sand bass and sculpin, and 21", 26" and 28" halibut.

July 2000—Carl Kepner, the new owner of Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle, reports that fishing has been good. He says a lot of yellowfin and spotfin croaker are being taken in the inshore areas while out at the end results have been very good on shovelnose sharks (guitarfish), bat rays and gray sharks. Anglers at the end are also taking some mackerel and a few bass—both kelp bass and sand bass. In addition, he reports that action has been strong on opaleye at the end of the pier but the unusual thing is that he reports they’re being caught on some anchovies he brought back from Mexico. An interesting catch recently was a moray eel nearly 4-feet in length out at the end of the pier.

February 2002—Brandon, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle, reports that anglers are catching a few pileperch out toward the end together with some mackerel, small yellowfin croaker, and a few sheephead. The largest sheepie weighed 6 pounds and was caught on mussels.

October 2004—Several pier rats report that good action on 2-4 pound bonito continues at the pier. Mix in croakers (yellowfins and spotfins) inshore, baitfish (sardines, smelt and queenfish) mid-pier, and pelagics (mackerel and bonito) out at the end, and it’s a pretty full menu on tap. BalboaDude reported his favorite bonito lure as being the Yozuri Hydrometal lure, while dompfa ben said all of his fish were caught on Krocs (Krocodiles), with the blue mackerel being the hot color, and the green mackerel a close second. Dompfa Ben also reported that his cousin Andy “hooked up with a monster bat ray that took him around the pier. Zach did the same thing a few moments later. A short sculpin kept it interesting, especially when I poked my middle finger trying to release it.”

August 2007—Brandon, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle, says mackerel action is good along with some bonito, both mid-pier to the end. Inshore there are lots of spotfin and yellowfin croakers as well as small sharks. Herring (queenfish) and smelt round out the action. Two 100+-pound giant (black) sea bass were caught and released in the past two weeks.

September 2007—Cheryl, co-manager at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle says things have slowed a little this week but action been pretty good. Biggest recent news was the catch of a 27-pound halibut and two more black (giant) sea bass; the latter were both good-sized fish and were returned to the water. Mackerel action has been hot out at the end while croaker action remains good from the surf almost to the end. They’re also starting to see big bait balls of sardines around the pier.

November 2007—Cheryl, at Schleppy’s Bait and Tackle, says it’s basically a variety of fish, mainly small calico and sand bass along with some mackerel. Some perch are available inshore to the mid-pier area. Of note was the capture of another giant (black) sea bass. I think they’ve seen somewhere around 8-10 of the big fish this year. It’s a good sign but also means anglers need to be careful if they do indeed hook them. Handle them with care (if you handle them at all).

Last edited by Ken Jones on Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:24 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:21 am
Ken Jones

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Location: California

(Part 3)

Author’s Note No. 1. San Clemente is home base for the Pizza Port Brewery and apparently they make a brew called Pizza Port Pier Rat Porter that has received generally good reviews. One person said, “Flavor is coffee, chocolate, some alcohol. Hops actually peeked around the corner of the malty sweetness. Body is silky smooth and very pleasant. An excellent porter.” Another said “dark brown, nice malty/roasty nose. Flavor is roasted chocolate. Smooth & easy drinking.” Pretty impressive but I’m somewhat confused. No essence of anchovy, no extract of squid juice, no perfume of mussel, no distillation of fish guts and herring gull droppings poking around the corner? Just think what a true “pier rat” brew might taste and smell like. On second thought, perhaps we don’t want to know.

Author’s Note No. 2. Sometimes it is hard to transform feelings into words. Not so for young über angler/writer/educator Ben Acker, aka dompfa ben, who not only is able to spin a yarn or two but it quite often able to include some wisdom and advice to think about after the story is done. Herein is one of my favorite posts on the PFIC Message Board, a message he sent on his first wedding anniversary.

Date: May 23, 2005
To: PFIC Message Board
From: dompfa ben
Subject: Anniversary fishing, San Clemente Pier style

The support of a loving family.
Without question, this is the solution to a variety of issues that might face a newlywed couple. Having found ourselves in the midst of “instant family...just add nephews,” and with the financial doldrums of teacher-summer, that support came in very handy this weekend.
To celebrate our first anniversary in relative quietude, Brandy and I dropped the boys off at Grandma's early Saturday morning, and, for the briefest of days, remembered what it was like when it was just us. The frozen wedding cake had a rather pleasant seafood bisque quality, no doubt the result of its frozen burial beneath bags of frozen anchovy and squid in our chest freezer. Like her brother ketchup, Cool-Whip fixes everything. We basked in our couple-hood, relishing the quiet that escaped us with the arrival of our loving nephews, remembering simpler times with a heady mix of longing, duty, and the road-not-taken. A bit greedy of us, perhaps, but with life moving at the speed of light of late, I'll take my moments where I find them, precious and rare though they are. And in the words of Luke Skywalker: “If there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that its farthest from.”
I empathize.
Anyway, let me get to the fishing part of the story. With our anniversary “celebrated” on Saturday, I somehow convinced Mrs. DOMPFA that the beach would be the ideal place to continue our celebration. We decided on San Clemente...she would be able to get a little sun, and I would be able to get a little fishing in. The art of compromise lies within, and she heartily agreed.
The fishing was about as good as the tanning—a fog bank gripped the coastline, revealing the sun only occasionally, and even then only with haze and softened shadows. I don't know if the fish felt as lazy, but I only made two baits—a perfect smelt that rolled on the first cast, and a small queenfish that didn't get picked up at all. A giant squid steak, cut into small strips, yielded some mystery bites that quickly got rocked in the reef, resulting in several snap-offs.
Around 3:30, I hooked up a whole ‘chovy Boyd-style (hooked through the nose, pulled through, wrapped a few times with the leader, and then re-hooked near the tail), and lobbed a cast. I immediately hooked and landed a China croaker, around 13 inches. The fish seemed to have given up on life long before she ever ate my bait, and I released her to her own watery devices. The next cast yielded a chunky sand bass, also on the Boyd-rigged ‘chovy. I released him also. Third cast... a male stingray inhaled the bait and swallowed the hook, so I released him with some bronze baitholder throat jewelry in a size 6.
About that time, the wind picked up and my grumbling stomach signaled dinnertime. Brandy had joined me on the pier, as the sun had made its final appearance of the afternoon sometime earlier. My fishing addiction sated for the time being, I reflected on the beauty of the ocean as a backdrop and a frame for the beauty before me, not when I fish, but even when I fish...not if I fish, but even if I fish...not because, but even because I fish... And it brought me full circle, and made me understand a little more about what I need to self-actualize during this lifetime in a Maslowian sense: The support of a loving family.

Author’s Note No. 3. People don’t pitch in and do civic contributions unless they believe in what they are doing. Guess that means the following shows the love locals in San Clemente have for their pier.

Volunteers repaint the pier for the fourth year

SAN CLEMENTE – By mid-spring each year, the municipal pier turns a faded blue speckled with white. And for the fourth year in a row, local volunteers came down April 14 to touch up the pier's color and undo the natural veneer left by pigeons.
Starting at 7:30 a.m., close to 30 volunteers turned out for the project, said Beaches & Parks senior contract inspector Mark Chavez. He estimated that 10 gallons of paint was applied to pier railings, costing the city about $300. The entire job took just over an hour. Additionally, a few volunteers walked the beach doing trash cleanup, he added.
If not for the repainting, the weather, sun, birds, and constant usage by anglers would cause the wood to rot, Chavez said.
“It's a great opportunity for people to give back to San Clemente and save the city money,” said Marie Toland, executive director of Family Assistance Ministries. FAM, Pacific Coast Church, and San Clemente's first ward for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints all participated in the repainting.
There were fewer volunteers than last year, Toland said, but it kept the project more manageable.
Last year, enough volunteers came out to finish the pier in 20 minutes, said Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints first ward public affairs representative Rick Gammell.
“I'm glad for this project,” he said. "I hope it can bring more awareness about keeping our beaches and oceans clean."
Even some of the local fishing aficionados joined in. Staff Sergeant Rick Cullen decided to drop his fishing pole for a paintbrush while out with Dylan Carey, the son of a friend now serving in Iraq. He frequently comes out to fish on the pier, and gets annoyed by kids carving graffiti into the railings.
“I might as well do something to help the community while I'm here,” Cullen said. “I think we should do this twice a year. Every six months, it needs it.”
—Andrew Good
Orange Count Register, April 16, 2007

Author’s Note No. 4. When is a shark “attack” not an attack? What, is this a trick question? No, just a lead in to the following story that comes from the website “Remember When” which tells stories of the south Orange County area.

Shark Attack at San Clemente Pier
By Berry Berg

San Clemente Pier was a magical place. There was always a lot of activity with the charter fishing boats coming and going, the restaurant at the end of the pier and the town square feel. My parents had been living in San Clemente since the 30's and it was exciting each and every day as a kid.
I was surfing near the pier in the mid 60's and the fishing boats were in full swing. The Dana Point Harbor had not been built yet, so all the fishing boats would load and unload on the lower dock attached to the pier on the southside. I remember it was always interesting, if not downright entertaining trying to board the boats under the pier. You would wait on the creaky old stairs for the big swells to pass and time your boarding perfectly. Otherwise you were going head first into the boat.
As I was having a great day surfing I could see all the activity of the boats and fishermen on the pier. I went to step off my board and I put my foot right into a shark's mouth. I had put my full body weight into it so the teeth immediately punctured my foot. As I pulled it up it was a bloody mess. It was a good-sized shark and I yelled for the lifeguards.
As there was no Dana Point Harbor, everything happened at the pier. Not only did the boats launch from the pier and anchor outside for the night, but the fisherman would often “clean” their fish at the pier as well. As I hobbled over to the lifeguard stand I was picturing this big shark that had just attacked me...but I knew it was only the head that had been carelessly discarded by one of the fisherman at the Pier.
The lifeguards looked in earnest for the shark head in the waves, or even the fisherman that had caught it. This was to no avail as I was transported to the emergency room at the South Coast Hospital in Laguna Beach (pre-San Clemente Hospital).

Protect the Seals

Something should be done to protect the seals that sun themselves on the rocks but a short distance out in the water from the San Clemente waterfront. We have been informed that within a remarkably short period no less than twenty-five of these animals have been washed ashore bearing bullet holes received at the hand of some miscreants.
Residents of the points state that every little while there can be seen a small boat hovering in the vicinity of the rocks and occasionally the sound of firearms can be heard from that direction. In one instance quite a large boat bearing sails stood off from the rocks while two small boats were over to the playground. In due course of time the carcasses of dead seals began to float ashore with the tide.
It is not known who the dastards are but they are supposed to be fishermen. Evidently the seals interfere with their catch more or less, and it is understood they cut the nets of the fishermen. Be that as it may, the practice should be put to a stop to as the fishing industry in the neighborhood of the rocks is nil and the culprits evidently come from a distance to work their destruction.
There is some difference of opinion whether the seals have any protection away from a rookery, and steps were taken some time ago to make these rocks a bird refuge in order to keep the killers away, but up to the present time nothing has been accomplished along that line.
It has been suggested that a sharp lookout be kept and whenever a recurrence of these acts is discovered that a few well deposited shots from a long range rifle be scattered around the invaders as a reminder that there are others who can shoot for the seals’ protection as well as they can for their destruction.
We would not suggest or recommend an act against the laws of the land, but something must be done, and that soon, or the seals will be either exterminated or driven from their haunts. If it could be learned who the killers are it might not be a bad idea to invite them out in the byways and reason with them with a good hickory stick.
However, the seals are going to be protected, either by the government or by the citizens of San Clemente, and the dastards can put that in their pipes and some it.

—El Heraldo de San Clemente
The San Clemente Herald, December 1926

History Note. The town of San Clemente was developed by Ole Hanson during the land boom days of the “Roarin' Twenties.” His vision foresaw a “Spanish Village by the Sea,” where all the houses were white with red tile roofs. His vision seems to have nearly come true.

The pier itself was one of Mr. Hanson's gifts to the citizens and was designed and constructed by one of his friends—Bill Ayer—for $75,000 in 1928. The pier was built where a coastal arroyo with gradual slopes seemed to form an amphitheater of sorts to the ocean (in contrast to most of the area’s steep coastal bluffs). The area in which the pier was located is called to this day “The Pier Bowl.”

The pier quickly became a town favorite, a place where both youth and adults could enjoy a day fishing or simply walking and relaxing. It also apparently became a favorite site to smuggle liquor into the county during Prohibition.

Sportfishing boats as well as fishing barges (Mary Lou and Melrose) operated from the pier for a number of years and it was during those early years that the local youth first developed an easy (sometimes) way to make money. The kids would line up their wagons (soon called fish carts) to carry the tackle and the fish of weary fishermen returning from the deep blue sea. The kids would get 20 or 25 cents to carry the heavy loads from the end of the pier back to shore. It was good money for the kids and a good rest for the anglers.

The hurricane of 1939 destroyed much of the pier including the café, tackle shop, and Owl Boat Co. fishing operation out at the end of the pier. (Sportfishing operations returned to the pier after reconstruction but ceased with the construction of the Dana Point Harbor and the opening of Dana Wharf Sportfishing in 1972.) The pier was rebuilt for a modest $40,000 in 1939 but damage would once again visit the pier.

In 1983 killer winter storms tore out 400 feet from the end of the pier and 80 feet from the mid-section area, just past the surf area. Similar to many of the towns that suffered damage to their piers in those monster storms, the question came up as to who would pay for the repairs and reconstruction of the pier? Near the front of the pier is an engraved plaque that presents a partial answer, “In Honor of these who donated one thousand dollars or more to the restoration of the pier after the March 1, 1983 storm.” Listed are thirteen local families and organizations. Additional money was needed and eventually FEMA paid 75%, the city $100,000, private donors $37,000, and state and county donors the rest (including the Wildlife Conservation Board and the State Lands Commission). The $1.4 million in repairs completed in 1985 (some source say $4 million) were much more expensive than those in 1939. When rebuilt, the end section was built 3.5 feet higher and polyethylene-coated steel piles were used to better withstand winter storms.

San Clemente itself was named after San Clemente Island. The island was given its name about November 25, 1602 by the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino. He named it San Clemente in honor of Saint Clement whose feast day is November 23.

Wharf Will Be Built — Gift Of Another Thousand feet Of Beach

Another streak of generosity has been manifested in the disposition of Ole Hanson, owner and builder of the Spanish Village, for he now announces that he has decided to raise the limit and give the people three thousand instead of two thousand feet of beach. The purchases of property in San Clemente thought him most liberal in his first award, and we be rejoiced to hear of his latest decision.
But his generosity does not stop there. He has decided to build a wharf for the people.
This will prove the best of all news, for many have been asking how that could be accomplished. Mr. Hanson does not know at present time where it will be placed for that part of the program is up to the government and it will have to be built wherever Uncle Sam designates.
The size of the wharf to be erected will also be governed by the same gentleman who is generally depicted as wearing a plug hat and has his pantaloons buttoned under his shoes.
This notion has been in Mr. Hanson’s system for some time but he did not want to say anything about it until he had all arrangements perfected, but as the notion grew it crowded out most everything else until he finally had to spill the beans.
The town of Oceanside but a short time ago voted a large bond issue for a like enterprise, and the work there is going forward, but that is going to cost the lot owners just so much per. Here in San Clemente we are to have a wharf as a gift from the builder without costing the lot owners a thin dime. And it will be doubtful if Oceanside or any other place on the South Pacific will have a prettier one than Mr. Hanson will have built, for he is strong in doing a thing right if he does it al all.
The tunnel under the railroad track leading from the bowl to the beach will be commenced within a very short time now as the architect’s plans are completed. There will be a world of cement used in this undertaking and when completed it will be a thing of beauty...
It is not unlikely that the new wharf will be constructed somewhere in near proximity to this underground entrance to the seashore, and should this be done it would give visitors a close-up view of the seals disporting themselves on the rocks bearing their name.

—El Heraldo de San Clemente
The San Clemente Herald

San Clemente Municipal Pier Facts

Hours: Open 4 A.M. till midnight.

Facilities: Lights, benches, fish-cleaning tables, snack bar at the end (Schleppy’s), and the fancier Fisherman's Restaurant near the entrance. A parking lot is located just up the street; cost is $1.00 an hour (although you only have to pay from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.). Limited bait and tackle is available at the liquor store across the street from the pier.

Handicapped Facilities: Handicapped parking and restrooms. The pier surface is cement and planking and the rail height is 43 inches. Posted for handicapped.

How To Get There: From I-5 take any of several exit streets west to El Camino Real, follow it to the center of town, and from there take Del Mar down to the pier.

Location: 33.41815302244228 N. Latitude, 117.62266516685486 W. Longitude

Management: City of San Clemente

Last edited by Ken Jones on Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:45 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:52 pm

Posts: 129
Location: Redlands, CA

Talk about blowing up a spot!

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 7:01 am
Ken Jones

Posts: 9780
Location: California

Yes, that's the conundrum that we face. People what to know the what, where, when and how while those enjoying the action tend to want only the "what and how" to be disseminated. On a pier there are already so many anglers that it isn't as big an issue‚except during the lobster season. This last year saw few bug reports; regulars saw no reason to arm poachers with additional ammunition.[/u][/i]
Support UPSAC! Preserve pier and shore angling in California.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:21 pm
Ken Jones

Posts: 9780
Location: California

BTW, Like your new logo.

Best wishes, Ken

Support UPSAC! Preserve pier and shore angling in California.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 4:40 pm

Posts: 129
Location: Redlands, CA

Thanks! And I do yours! I have this one as a shirt. I wish I had yours!
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